Archive for February, 2009

See! The giant inert object that spelled doom for a thirty year-old movie studio!

Man, we’ve got this AIP thing covered. Liz took you back to the studio’s very earliest days when they were still ARC. The Teleport Boys have covered the middle years. And here you can read about the film that finally killed AIP off. Samuel Z. Arkoff went big budget and learned to regret it with the 1979 disaster flick Meteor.

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John Agar Probes Uranus

JOURNEY TO THE 7TH PLANET

Before we get into this article, let me get something off my chest and, in the process, confess to you all that I am going into this movie with a considerable chip on my shoulder. You see, as can be ascertained from the title, this movie deals with a journey to the planet Uranus, and as anyone can tell you, it is the God-given right of people discussing this planet to make as many “Uranus” jokes as they can (and believe me, I can make a lot of them). Especially when a movie turns out to be as dull and uneventful as this one, we who regularly engage in discussion of such films need those Uranus jokes to make it through to the end credits. Now some movies will try and head you off at the pass, using the alternate “Urine Us” pronunciation, but as you can see, even though it is less versatile, that pronunciation comes with its own cargo of hilarity.

So it was with barely contained boiling rage that I discovered Journey to the 7th Planet is not only dull, but it also steals, like a horrible goblin in the night, the one ray of joy it could have otherwise delivered to us. It does this by making up a wholly new pronunciation for Uranus, something that goes a little something like “Your Ahhh Niss.”

Three Words: Harlem Frogmen Assault

HELL UP IN HARLEM
Despite Hell Up In Harlem’s many problems, I have to say that I think I prefer it over its predecessor. While it’s certainly true that Black Caesar is the more earnest and ambitious of the two, I don’t think that the abilities of Cohen and his cast were always up to that level of earnestness and ambition. Williamson, for instance, while undeniable blessed with a glaring surplus of charisma, gives an enthusiastic performance in both movies, but is seemingly incapable of giving a convincing line reading, with the result that Caesar’s level of melodrama is really not his friend. Leading lady Gloria Hendry, on the other hand, is just a little too cozy with melodrama, and comports herself throughout much of her screen time in both films as if she were chained to the wailing wall. Factors like these, along with the rough edges of Cohen’s direction, combine to make Black Caesar a bit of a bumpy ride for fans of consistent narrative tone. By contrast, Hell Up In Harlem, with its frenetic opening deconstruction of Black Caesar’s final act, lets you know from the get-go that it’s going to be a wild ride through crazy town, and never disappoints.

The Best Spy Movie Title Until The Nude Bomb

DR GOLDFOOT & THE BIKINI MACHINE
I have my moments were I am quite happy to take a stroll down “dumb street.” I can sit through some of the most juvenile movies and still not get bored by the lame shenanigans on screen. Bikini Machine is certainly a walk down “dumb street,” and for the first three quarters of the film, I had no problem with that. I enjoyed Price’s over the top abuse of Igor. It didn’t matter how many times he called him “a blithering idiot” or told him to “chop, chop.” It raised a smile from my chapped lips. But for the last quarter of the film, somebody decided that the film needed more action. This action appears in the form of a laboriously painful chase through the streets of San Francisco. And the chase is repetitive. Dr. G chases Gamble and Armstrong, who are in a car. Dr. G uses his remote control to blow up Gamble and Armstrong’s car. Gamble and Armstrong steal another car. Dr. G uses his remote control to blow up Gamble and Armstrong’s car. I am sure you get the idea.

ONE MILLION EYES!!!! (o.n.o.)

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THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES (1955)

Another example of what the American Releasing Corporation used to palm off on the general public as “a film”. In an almost textbook example of a fifties science fiction tale, an invading alien that calls itself “a strong mind” tries to take over the world, but is defeated by the power of love, religion and the American way.

First, however, the alien stages an attack via its ability to control those with weak minds and wills: animals; people with brain damage; women…

It's American-International… and it educational?!?

It’s time for the roundtable contribution by The Unknown Movies, and the choice is a kind of an oddity for American-International Pictures. They took a subject that could have been fashioned into one of their countless exploitaiton movies, yet here they took things very seriously. The subject matter in Panic In Year Zero! is nuclear war, and the actions that the movie’s protagonists make as a result of that will teach you, dear reader, just what you should do if there is a nuclear war. Getting food, finding shelter, and protecting yourself… it’s all here.

Those Wacky Japanese

Yes, yes, we’re getting to the round table reviews very soon. But first, let’s class the joint up a little…

S&M HUNTER
S&M Hunter is irresistibly quotable. Its main character spouts all kinds of pretentious nonsense, and even, true to his ecclesiastical garb, quotes the New Testament (while other utterances — “I see your heart. Your heart wants my ropes” — seem more secular in origin). What I enjoyed most about the film was how it hijacks the terse moral shorthand and glib certitude of evangelism for its own anarchic ends. During the movie’s talky prologue, the Hunter essentially preaches to the audience, explicitly laying out the story’s conflict and moral, after which we see both briskly played out, with the gum-snapping, leather-clad Bombers playing the transgressors whose wayward actions meet with exactly those consequences that the moral predetermines. In the end it all plays out like some Bizarro World version of a Chick tract, with those who have given in to evil, rather than being cast into the lake of fire, instead being bound up and helplessly racked with consecutive multiple orgasms.

Arkham Tales #2 now available.

Once a quarter isn’t too often to do some self-promotion that isn’t related to movies, is it? (If it is, just keep it to yourself.)

I wish to announce that, after long labor, issue #2 of Arkham Tales is available for free download, either web-optimized or designed for booklet printing — just pull out your handy-dandy saddle stapler, and you’re ready to go!

Download the new issue (or the previous issue) right here.

Putting the rêve in revenant

Month of the Alternative Living Dead

Death Smiles at Murder (1971)

Before I get to the current roundtable, there’s the little matter of the last one I haven’t attended to yet (Yes, yes, I know; that was last year. Shut up).

So here’s an odd, arty little film whose undead creature is as unpredictable as it is.

I Take Care of the Place While The Master is Away

I have committed many offenses against human decency, but an enthusiastically positive review of Manos? I may have finally crossed the line.

MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE
It’s a fitting name for the movie, because my fate seems intrinsically intertwined with Manos. If any movie was my long lost evil twin brother, it would be Manos. I know that one day, billions of years from now, as the earth boils and dies, Manos and I are fated to stand atop a craggy cliff as a tumultuous sea of lava crashes below us and volcanoes spew fire and dinosaurs into the sky. There we stand, face to face, battered, bloody, aware of the fact that we are both doomed, yet never the less unable to extract ourselves from the eternal combat into which we have been and always shall be locked. I have seen the road lain before me, and I know that it leads to Manos: The Hands of Fate just as surely as its road leads to me. My ties to Manos are sundry, and even I did not realize most of them existed until I started peeling back the layers of the onion, each one confronting me with a revelation more unspeakable than the last, until one day I found myself actually standing on the very grounds that served as the location for the film, at which time I fell to my knees, cried out to the heavens, and went stark raving mad.